Chinese Carrier Group Drills in Pacific Ocean; Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group Wraps Up Exercise with Australia

December 22, 2021 11:52 AM
China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. PLA Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – A six-ship People’s Liberation Army Navy carrier group led by aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) is currently operating in the Pacific Ocean, according to releases from the Japanese military.

The PLAN carrier group featuring Liaoning, destroyer Nanchang (101), a Luyang III-class destroyer, frigate Rizhao (598) and another Type 54A Jiangkai II frigate, along with a Type 901 replenishment ship, was in the vicinity of the waters off the uninhabited Oki Daito Island, 315 kilometers, or about 196 miles, southeast of Okinawa on Dec. 20, the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self-Defense Force said in a Tuesday news release.

The carrier was conducting flight operations with J-15 fighter aircraft along with Z-9 and Z-18 helicopters from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. that day. The JSO issued an earlier release on the same day that noted the activity of the PLAN carrier group on Dec. 19, saying it was in the vicinity of Kita Daito Island, 300 kilometers, or about 186 miles, east of Okinawa and conducting flight operations from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Liaoning, Nanchang, Rizhao and the Type 901 replenishment ship were sighted in the area west of the Danjo Islands in the East China on Dec. 15, traveling southeast with the four ships, then operating between Miyako Island and Okinawa on Dec. 16 and sailed southwards into the Pacific Ocean from the East China Sea, according to a news release the JSO issued on Friday. Helicopters were conducting flight operations throughout the two days, the JSO said. Although the releases made no mention of it, it is likely that the unnamed Luyang III-class destroyer and Jiangkai II frigate were already operating in the Pacific Ocean and subsequently joined the four ships there.

Friday’s release also said the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer helicopter carrier Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer Akizuki (DD-115) – along with P-1 maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 1 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Honshu and P-3 Orion MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 5 at Naha Air Base, Okinawa – were monitoring the passage of the PLAN ships on the 15th and 16th. Tuesday’s releases noted that Izumo was monitoring the PLAN carrier group and that Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighters had been scrambled in response to the carrier launching fighter aircraft.

An MH-60S Sea Hawk, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, flies next to Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) while transiting the Indian Ocean during a bilateral training exercise with the Royal Australian Air Force, Dec. 17, 2021. U.S. Navy Photo

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy’s Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group continues it deployment in the Western Pacific ,with the strike group recently finishing a bilateral training exercise with the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force that took place from Dec. 10 through 19 in the Indian Ocean off Australia. The exercise was for both countries “to deploy high-end training tactics and improve proficiencies in advanced kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities, capable of projecting dominant defensives against a multi-domain threat environment,” according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release.

During the exercise, the forces drilled for scenarios ranging from electronic warfare operations to combined anti-surface and anti-air engagements, 7th Fleet said.

“Conducting advanced kinetic and non-kinetic bilateral exercises with our allies and partners increases our collective ability to outthink and outfight any adversary threatening our open seas,” Rear Adm. Dan Martin, the commander of Carrier Strike Group One, said in the news release. “Our long-term alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region preserve maritime prosperity and international order, and enable seamless integration, communication, and collaboration across the region.”

Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH-152) approaches Fleet Replenishment Oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) to begin a refueling-at-sea, Dec. 11, 2021, in the Savu Sea. U.S. Navy Photo

HMAS Warramunga (FFH152) represented the RAN with RAAF P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft also participating. Warramunga returned to its homeport at Fleet Base West, Rockingham last week.

The Carl Vinson CSG participating in the exercise included carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106), and replenishment ships USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204) and USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194).

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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